Welcome to the age of robots serving as our very own personal assistants — well, at least when it comes to booking reservations. Duplex, a Google Assistant voice-calling restaurant reservation feature, first announced by Google developers in May of 2018, expanded its reach early March 2019. Google told Reviews.com Duplex would be rolled out to Pixel phones (all three generations and XL versions) across 43 U.S. states, where it had previously only been available to select users in major metropolises like New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco.
An android bartender (Michael Sheen) serves his first customer (Chris Pratt) in 2016’s “Passengers.” © 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Google has been smoothing Duplex’s kinks since its release in May of 2018, when several media outlets noticed it had been difficult to discern whether the voice was that of a human or artificial intelligence — and Google didn’t have a feature in place to let businesses know a robot was on the other line. Now, when you use the Assistant to book a reservation, the receiver should know it’s the Google Assistant calling on your behalf, and that person (or business) will have the option to opt-in or out of the feature by saying, “Please remove my business from your list,” or “Please stop calling my business.”
A heads-up to businesses:
The Duplex feature isn’t just used to help consumers book reservations — it can also corroborate the information you’ve provided about your business on Google. Google says if a customer uses the Assistant to check your business’ hours, Duplex may then call your business to confirm the information, “if it’s not updated.” All calls made by Duplex are recorded, and if there is a discrepancy between what you tell the Assistant via Duplex and what’s on the web, Google says it “may update your business listing on Google Search and Maps.”
How does Duplex work?
We wondered: Why use a robot to schedule reservations for you (does it really make life that much easier)? So we’ve tested the feature out for ourselves using a first generation Pixel XL, for a restaurant in Charlotte, N.C. Here’s what we found:
Booking a reservation with Duplex is as easy as telling the Assistant, “Make a reservation at X restaurant for X amount of people at X time.” Seriously. But it doesn’t work with every restaurant, and because the feature is still in beta, it doesn’t allow users to see a transcript or listen to a recording of what was asked on their behalf by Duplex. Our tester decided to call the restaurant to see what happened, and was told the caller ID left with the restaurant was listed as “Google Assistant.” The Assistant also reportedly sounded like a “human who hadn’t had coffee.” Once the reservation had been made, our tester got a text message from the restaurant and calendar invite to confirm.
Who can use Duplex?
Google told us that the feature would be expanding to more Android phones, iPhones, and Assistant-based devices in the coming weeks. We aren’t sure when the official roll-out will happen, but Google’s help center says the feature is supported on “Android devices running 5.0 or newer” and “iPhones with the Google Assistant app installed.” One of our testers tried it on the Google Assistant app on an iPhone 8 Plus and as of press time was able to successfully complete the reservation process. Google (accurately) told our tester the business didn’t take reservations but left the number of the restaurant and offered to help make a different booking. Considering an announcement hasn’t been made concerning the widespread use of Duplex on other third-party devices, we can’t concretely say whether this will work for everyone right now.
The Bottom Line
There are a couple benefits: You don’t have to speak to a human, and you might spend a little less time booking a reservation (the whole process for us took a little over a minute). We plan to keep track of the Duplex feature and bring you updates as soon as we see them.
Featured Image: ROBYN BECK / Contributor